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Headlines for Monday, August 5, 2019

Report: Kansas Medicaid Complaints Went to Unchecked Email

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new report says dozens of complaints about Kansas Medicaid fraud went to a government email account that no one checked. The Kansas City Star reports that the state attorney general released findings on Monday that show more than 200 emails were left unread. The attorney general's office found 42 of the unread emails contained at least partially substantiated claims of waste, fraud or abuse that weren't checked out. The newspaper reports that the issue comes after state lawmakers in 2017 voted to move a long-vacant Medicaid watchdog position from the state health department to the attorney general's office. From August 2017 to January 2019, emails went to a defunct account that no one monitored.

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Kansas Governor Declares End to El Dorado Prison Emergency

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Laura Kelly has declared an end to an emergency at the state's most-crowded prison that had officers there scheduled for 12-hour shifts. The Department of Corrections said Monday that it expects the El Dorado Correctional Facility to return to a regular schedule of five, eight-hour days a week for officers in early October. Kelly declared the emergency in February to allow the prison about 30 miles east of Wichita to schedule officers for four, 12-hour shifts a week. The prison houses more than 1,950 inmates. The department said the number of vacancies among uniformed officers dropped to 50 in late July from 75 in mid-June. It attributed the decline to increased funding for higher wages that boosted starting pay to $18.26 an hour from $15.75.

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New Guidelines Drafted Regarding LGBTQ Kids in Kansas Foster Care

 TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas' child welfare agency has drafted guidelines urging foster parents to allow LGBTQ kids in their care to "express themselves as they see themselves.'' The move has riled conservatives a little more than a year after the state granted legal protections to faith-based adoption agencies that do not place children in LGBTQ homes. The Department for Children and Families issued its draft guidance in mid-July, six months after Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly took office. It called for foster homes to recognize LGBTQ children by their preferred identities. Conservatives saw it as a directive meant to reshape foster families' lives. They also worry it's an attempt to skirt a 2018 law that Kelly doesn't like that protects faith-based adoption agencies refusing to place children in homes violating their religious beliefs.  (Read more about this story.)

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Topeka Rescue Mission Might Close Soon Without New Funding

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Officials with the Topeka Rescue Mission say the organization could close next month if new funding isn't found.  Leaders said in a statement Monday that the mission is facing a $180,000 shortfall each month. It will close all its shelters and end all services if new funding isn't found by September 15.  WIBW reports Mission leaders say they've already made money-saving moves, including announcing last week that the TRM Thrift Store would close soon.  The mission provides shelter for an average of 250 people each night, and provides hundreds of meals every day.  TRM started in 1953 as a small room providing shelter and food to homeless men. It has expanded over the years to include shelters for women and families, and to provide education, care, and programs for children.

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Kansas, Missouri See Uptick in Drug Overdose Deaths

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Federal data indicates the number of drug overdose deaths has increased in Kansas and Missouri even as national drug fatalities decline.  The Kansas City Star reports that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released provisional data in July projecting overdose deaths in Kansas rose from 326 in 2017 to 341 in 2018. It projects Missouri's overdose deaths rose from 1,406 in 2017 to 1,635 in 2018.  Randall Williams is the director of Missouri's health department. He says more than 1,100 of Missouri's overdose deaths in 2018 involved opioids.  A Kansas drug abuse task force found more than 80% of overdoses from 2012 to 2016 involved a prescription medication and one-third involved methamphetamines.  Both states have expanded access to naloxone, a drug that counteracts opioid overdoses.

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Arrest Made in Woman's Shooting Death in Kansas City's Arts District

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police have made an arrest in the death of a Kansas woman killed by a stray bullet fired during a fight at a popular monthly Kansas City arts district festival.  The Kansas City Star reports that police have arrested 18-year-old Deon'te Copkney, of Kansas City. Police say he was one of three people seen running from the shooting scene Friday night and detained for questioning. Officers say they saw Copkney drop a handgun as he was running that was later determined to be the same gun that shot 25-year-old Erin Langhofer, of Overland Park, Kansas.  Langhofer died following the shooting in the Crossroads District as the First Fridays event was underway. Police say she was near a food truck when she was hit and was not part of the fight. She died at a hospital.  Prosecutors have charged Copkney with second-degree murder and two weapons counts. He remained jailed Saturday.

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Hutchinson Man Sentenced for Threatening Ex-Wife, Setting House Fire

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A 65-year-old Hutchinson man was sent to prison for threatening to kill his ex-wife and daughter and trying to burn down the couple's house before it could be sold in a divorce settlement.  Kerry Getz was sentenced Friday to 3½ years in prison, followed by five years of probation. He also was ordered to have no contact with his wife and daughter.  The Hutchinson News reports Getz was arrested in July 2017, for arson and interference with law enforcement. Authorities said he set his home on fire and blocked the driveway so firefighters couldn't reach the property. At other times he threatened to kill his ex-wife and daughter.  Getz spent several months at Larned State Hospital but eventually was returned to Reno County, where was he was found guilty of arson and criminal threat.

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Kansas City Retailer Now Selling Bullet-Resistant Backpacks

PLATTE COUNTY, MO (KCTV) -- According to KCTV in Kansas City, an Office Max in Platte Woods is now selling bulletproof backpacks.  It's believed to be the only retailer in the Kansas City area selling the item, just as parents begin buying back-to-school supplies for their children.  One mother said she thinks her kids are safe at the school they attend, but she see’s the other side of the argument.  She’s still undecided on whether she would buy one of these bullet-resistent backpacks for her kids but was not expecting to make the decision yet.  “I don’t’ know how I feel about it,” Lexie Pohl said. “This is the first I’ve heard of it, so I was actually surprised when he said bulletproof. I thought he meant a brand, not actually bulletproof.”  Office Max carries Guard Dog bulletproof backpacks, which will cost around $200, if you decide to buy one.  (Read more about this story.)

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KU Study: Centers Turn Away Patients on Opioid Medication

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A University of Kansas study says many treatment centers for addiction in the Kansas City area will not accept or have restrictions on accepting patients who have been prescribed medications to fight their addiction.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports Nancy Kepple, an assistant professor for KU's School of Social Welfare, is the lead author of the study. She says the study surveys 360 Kansas City-area treatment facilities to determine their acceptance rates of people with opioid use disorder who have been prescribed medications to treat the disorder.  The study found that 40% treatment centers have a "mixed-to-negative attitude" toward treating people who take medication to treat the disorder.  Kepple says some treatment centers said they resist accepting those patients because they either don't have the infrastructure or the knowledge of the medications to feel comfortable enough serving them. Others said they are treatment centers that use the traditional 12-step program, which often adheres to a full-abstinence philosophy.

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KC Police: Man's Death Investigated as Homicide

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police say they're investigating the death of a man whose body was found on a Kansas City street as a homicide.  Police in a news release Saturday identified the victim as 62-year-old Michael Pittman. Police say officers were called to the area near Kansas City's Central Park around 11 pm Thursday and found Pittman's body lying in the street.  Police have not said how Pittman died, but say his death is being investigated as a homicide.  No arrests have been reported, and police have asked anyone with information on the death to contact the TIPS hotline.

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17-Year-Old Dies After Being Shot While Driving in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say the shooting death of a teenager during the weekend was part of an ongoing gang feud. Seventeen-year-old Ramiro Valdez died after the shooting early Sunday near Old Town in Wichita. Police spokesman Charley Davidson said Monday that 18-year-old Eduardo Gallardo of Wichita has been arrested in the shooting. Police say Valdez and two other teenagers were in a pickup when someone in another truck fired several bullets, hitting the driver. The other two teens in Valdez's truck weren't injured. Davidson said the investigation continues and more arrests are expected.

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Navy Releases Name of Sailor Killed After Traffic Stop

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) — Military authorities have released the name of a sailor who was fatally shot by security personnel at a Navy base in Virginia after a traffic stop. Navy officials on Monday identified the sailor as 25-year-old Juan Gerardo Medina-Reynaga. Medina-Reynaga was a native of Kansas assigned to USS George H.W. Bush. Investigators say security personnel stopped a 2016 Dodge Charger that was being driven erratically on the Virginia Beach military base Friday night. Officials say Medina-Reynaga sped away from the traffic stop, hitting a gas pump while trying to avoid an automatic barrier. Medina-Reynaga then led security officers on a foot chase that ended in a struggle. Officials say he was shot after assaulting security personnel and trying to take a weapon from a security officer.

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Swarms of Mayflies, Frogs Emerge Along Missouri River

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Swarms of mayflies have emerged from under water along the Missouri River and are caking drivers' windshields.  The Omaha World-Herald reports mayflies spend 99% of their lives in water, but they rise above when they become winged adults to take part in a mating swarm. They quickly die after that.  But their mating season is a nuisance.  Pam Frana, a membership specialist for the Nebraska City Tourism and Commerce Department, blames the flooding for stirring up the mayflies.  Dominator Fuel in Rock Port, Missouri, sold out of windshield wiper fluid in light of the mayflies' arrival.  Andrew Wagner, who works in Hamburg, Iowa, says covered windshields so much that drivers couldn't see where they were going. But he says the situation is better now that flooding has gone down.

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Kansas State Gets $2.8 Million Federal Grant for Cyberattack Research

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State researchers have received a three-year, $2.8 million federal grant for a project to enhance utility operators' awareness of and resilience to cyberattacks.  The award from the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office was announced last week.  The Manhattan Mercury reports that as more solar and other distributed energy resources are added to the electrical grid, utility operators need new tools to provide stronger protection against physical and cyber risks.  This project is led by engineering professor Bala Natarajan.  The project is among the largest to date in the electrical and computer engineering department at the university. It is the first project from the solar office to be awarded to a university in Kansas.

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Bill Would Expand Health Care Options for Native American Veterans

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — A bill introduced in Congress would expand health care options for Native American veterans.  New Mexico Senator Tom Udall and California Representative Ro Khanna announced the bill Friday. A bipartisan group of lawmakers has signed on as co-sponsors.  The measure would allow the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs to reimburse about three dozen health care facilities in 20 states for services provided to Native veterans in urban areas. California leads in the number of urban Indian health centers.  A reimbursement system already exists for about 185 hospitals and clinics run by the federal Indian Health Service or by tribes in more remote areas. Udall's office says those agreements helped more than 9,300 Native veterans last year.  Census figures show about three-quarters of Native Americans live in urban areas.

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Commission Would Examine Exertional Heat Stroke in Athletes

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — U.S. Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey has introduced legislation to create a commission to study exertional heat strokes in athletes after a player from his district died at Garden City Community College in Kansas. Smith, a Republican, proposed the bill Friday to honor 19-year-old Braeden Bradforth, of Neptune, New Jersey. He died in August 2018 after the first day of practice in Garden City. The Joplin Globe reports the bill would establish a commission to study exertional heat stroke among student athletes at educational institutions across the country. Smith said the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury confirmed 64 exertional heat stroke deaths among football players since 1995. Bradforth, a 300-pound lineman, collapsed less than an hour after a conditioning session. An autopsy concluded he died of exertional heat stroke.

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Coroner Rules Kansas Toddler's Death Homicide

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An autopsy report says a Kansas toddler found bound in pajamas died of dehydration and starvation. The Wichita Eagle reports that the local coroner ruled 2-year-old Zaiden Javonovich's death a homicide. The toddler's mother, Brandi Marchant, 22, and his father, Patrick Javonovich, 28, are charged with felony murder and child abuse in his death. His body was found April 11 when police went to the family's Wichita home after receiving a call about a domestic disturbance. Zaiden's 4-month-old brother, who is Marchant's son, was found injured and hospitalized in critical condition. Police found Zaiden face down in a crib and bound tightly around the chest with knotted pajamas. The autopsy says that might have led to asphyxia and could have contributed to his death. Zaiden's brain tested positive for methamphetamine.

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Wife Says Wisconsin Brothers' Disappearance in Missouri a "Nightmare"

PULASKI, Wis. (AP) — The wife of one of two Wisconsin brothers who went missing in Missouri and are presumed dead says their disappearance is horrific.  Lisa Diemel told the Kansas City Star that her husband and brother-in-law's disappearance is a nightmare they'll live with for the rest of their lives.  Her husband, 35-year-old Nicholas Diemel, and his 24-year-old brother, Justin, were reported missing July 21.  Garland Nelson is in jail without bail on charges of tampering with a rental truck the brothers used during their Missouri trip.  Nelson is accused of driving the truck from a farm near Braymer visited by the brothers during a business trip for their cattle operation in Wisconsin. The truck was found abandoned July 22.  Police found human remains on the farm but have not yet identified them.

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Hays Woman Sentenced for Falsely Claiming Inheritance

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 66-year-old Hays woman will serve a year of supervised probation for falsely claiming that her employer left her half of his estate when he died. U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said Wanda Oborny was sentenced Monday for mail fraud. She also was ordered to make $100 monthly payments to Fort Hays State University during her probation. In her plea, Oborny admitted that in 2013 she mailed a fraudulent codicil to Kansas banker Earl Field's will to Fort Hays State. The document falsely claimed Field had Oborny half of his $20 million estate to her. Oborny had been Field's part-time bookkeeper. She claimed to have found the modified will in his desk the night he died in 2013. In reality, Field left most of his estate to the university.

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Children's Book Museum Set to Open in Kansas City Next Year

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — An artist-driven nonprofit says it plans to open a museum that celebrates children's literature in a Kansas City warehouse early next year.  Rabbit Hole co-founder Debbie Pettid tells KCUR-FM that they've chosen renowned works and sometimes-overlooked titles by authors from diverse backgrounds to fill the 165,000 square foot (15,300 square meter) space just north of downtown.  The nonprofit bought the warehouse last year and started on the second phase of construction in July after raising more than half of its $12 million budget. It plans to open the museum in March 2020.  The space will include dozens of exhibits, including Max's room from Maurice Sendak's "Where the Wild Things Are," and a "Goodnight Moon" room to host book clubs and other events.

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Old Riverton Store in Southeast Kansas Gets Route 66 Preservation Grant

RIVERTON, Kan. (AP) — A Route 66 destination in southeast Kansas is receiving a cost-share grant from a federal preservation program that is expected to end this fall.  The Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program awarded Nelson's Old Riverton Store a $2,500 matching grant to upgrade its exterior.  The Joplin Globe reports the Riverton store opened in 1925, one year before U.S. 66 was designated.  Originally intended to last 10 years, the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program was extended for another decade in 2009. It is set to expire in October.  Bill Thomas, chairman of the Road Ahead board of directors, said supporters are working to ensure the passage of federal legislation to designate Route 66 as a National Historic Trail, and to ensure the National Park Service oversees the trail.

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